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Report calls for focus on lung cancer in women

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http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID ... 929C6F8A04


January 26, 2007

Report calls for focus on lung cancer in women

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Greater awareness and more research dollars need to go toward lung cancer, particularly as it affects women, according to a new report.

Women may be more likely to fear breast or ovarian cancer, but more actually die from lung cancer than from breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined, experts point out in the report, a summary of a recent meeting of top cancer specialists.

Historically, lung cancer was largely a man's disease, but as women's smoking rates climbed, so did their lung cancer risk. In 2000, the lung cancer death rate among U.S. women was eight times what is was in the 1960s.

And although smoking rates have declined in recent decades, women and teenage girls are still about as likely as males to smoke, according to the report authors, led by Dr. Chandra P. Belani of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

What's more, they say, recent research is showing that women may be more susceptible than men are to the cancer-causing substances in tobacco smoke.

"Reducing the incidence of lung cancer death in women requires renewed efforts toward smoking cessation and prevention," Belani and her colleagues write in the journal Lung Cancer.

Besides greater public awareness, there is an "urgent need" for more research into the sex differences that mark lung cancer, according to the panel.

A number of studies have found that female smokers seem to be more likely than males to develop lung cancer. And recent research into the biology of lung tumors suggests that women may be more susceptible to the toxins in tobacco smoke; some studies have found, for example, that women's tumors are more likely to have mutations in the p53 gene, which normally suppresses tumor formation.

On the other hand, research also shows that women with lung cancer have better survival odds than men. This suggests, according to the report authors, that women may respond better to certain chemotherapy drugs.

A clinical trial focusing on female lung cancer patients is now underway to see whether a newer form of the cancer drug paclitaxel is more effective than standard paclitaxel. It's the first clinical trial, the researchers note, to try to "take advantage" of sex differences in lung tumors and improve treatment for one group of patients, in this case women.

Traditionally, much of the research on lung cancer, as in other diseases, has focused on male patients.

The report calls for continuing research into the differences between men and women in their susceptibility to lung cancer and their treatment responses.

"An urgent need exists to increase awareness and research funding to improve lung cancer care," the authors conclude, "particularly in women."

SOURCE: Lung Cancer, January 2007.

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